The Newsletter for Dangerous Thinkers


Truth Wisdom Reason Ultimate Reality


Issue 18, June 2002

This newsletter is unashamedly devoted to truth, genius and wisdom, which, of course, makes it totally anachronistic and out-of-fashion.   Some people even go so far as to call it "medieval" in nature.  The truths that it points to are subtle, profound and hard to discern.  They aren't the sort of truths that you can hold out in front of everyone, as you can a scientific result or a mathematical proof.  Rather, they are like beautiful diamonds that are buried deep within the mind.  Much personal digging is required if you want to cash in on this wonderful treasure.    But sadly, most people are too afraid to dig, lest their whole minds cave in.  And so this newsletter is really only for the courageous few.  Let the morons endlessly prattle on about how these inner diamonds don't exist.  It is their loss, not yours.  Let them revel in their poverty.  What does it matter to you?  You are a fine young explorer of the spirit!  May you go all the way with your explorations.  May you succeed where others fear to tread!

Welcome to Genius News.


Finite, Infinite, Certainty and Doubt

Excerpt: The Thinking Man's Dictionary


An Academic with a Soul?

In the News

From the Twilight Zone

36 Things Women Can't Do

Why Cats are Better than Men

Higher Education and Wisdom

Genius at a Glance

From the Archives

Subscription Information

The -[- symbol will return you to this contents table from each major section.

From "Principles of Psychology"

by William James

We observe an identical difference between men as a whole and women as a whole. A young woman of twenty reacts with intuitive promptitude and security in all the usual circumstances in which she may be placed. Her likes and dislikes are formed; her opinions, to a great extent, the same that they will be through life. Her character is, in fact, finished in its essentials. How inferior to her is a boy of twenty in all these respects! His character is still gelatinous, uncertain what shape to assume, "trying it on" in every direction. Feeling his power, yet ignorant of the manner in which he shall express it, he is, when compared with his sister, a being of no definite contour. But this absence of prompt tendency in his brain to set into particular modes is the very condition which insures that it shall ultimately become so much more efficient than the woman's. The very lack of preappointed trains of thought is the ground on which general principles and heads of classification grow up; and the masculine brain deals with new and complex matter indirectly by means of these, in a manner which the feminine method of direct intuition, admirably and rapidly as it performs within its limits, can vainly hope to cope with. 

This discussion meanders through the issues of the meaning of "finite" and "infinite" and examples of such things to the question of whether there is anything that we can, in fact, be certain about in all these questions. It's an open-ended discussion which may well finds its conclusion in Edition 19..........

ZAROVE3: My definition of existance is that something actually has a preasence in reality ... it is not defined as something finite nor have you expounded any fact that illustrates the point that indeed all things must be finite to exist... merely that all things you know of are... which in fact matter and energy are not.

God may be matter and energy... some say that we are the manifestation of God... that the Universe is God manifesting himself... I beleive God is seperate yet a part... lie an author we are his creations in his mind.... made of his mind yet not really him.

But as requested I define existence as something that has a preasence in reality ... can you now tell me what is wrong with this definition?

Dan Rowden: I don't think there's all that much wrong with your definition. At this point, at least, I have no reason to quibble with it. However, I would suggest to you that it has a logical consequence that you are not seeing; that is, "existent" things have a "presence in reality", which means they are not the totality (i.e. reality itself). That makes them less than the totality which makes them bounded which makes them finite.

Finite means bounded. Something is either the totality or less than the totality. If we begin to speak if it [the totality] as existing, it means we have started to employ two different notions of what "existence" means, which strikes me as gratuitous.

So, in short, to have a presence in reality is to be less than the totality of that reality and therefore to be necessarily bounded and therefore finite.

ZAROVE3: If God is the totality of all things then God becomes existant by being all things, and still unbound.

Dan Rowden: But to make this claim work you have to throw out your own definition of "exists". You're working on the basis of two different definitions of "exists". I mean, you're welcome to do that but it doesn't make much sense to me.

Witt: I am particularly puzzled by your rejection of an infinite existence, "That which exists is necessarily finite". All of modern mathematics, any set theory that I am aware of, has 'an axiom of infinity' which assumes an infinite set. It appears that they did not check with you first, damn fools!

Dan Rowden: Well, somebody's certainly being foolish. To call any mathematical set "infinite" is patently stupid. Is any such set your left testicle? Is it a tomato? Since there is something that any such set is not, it is necessarily finite. The very idea of there being more than one "infinite" is breathtakingly idiotic.

Non Sum: Let's take a closer look at his "left testicle" and his "tomato." Both are spheres, which are a higher order of infinitude than are 'circles' (i.e. an infinite line extended on one plane) A line with no beginning nor any end does indeed meet a 'lower order' definition of "infinite." And, mathematics/geometry sees it as such. The mathematical equivalent to a circle would be 'the set of all integers'.

With the tomatoe, and testicle, we crank up the order of infinity into another dimension since we have now an infinite number of infinite circles. This in terms of mathematics would be the inclusion of 'the set of all possible numbers falling between each integer' co-joined with 'the set of all integers'.

We have to mean something when we say "infinite," not just 'some big thing you can't understand', like we are primitives counting: '1, 2, many'. 'Infinite' is not 'large' or 'many', nor 'small' or 'few', it is simply something without bounds, limits, an immeasurable. A circumference of a circle, is merely to take a random start and finish point on a dimensionally bounded, but infinite, line. A sphere (testicle)is still bound, but in fewer dimensions. That is why they are 'orders of infinity' limited only by the dimensions they must occur within. The beauty of these lesser orders of infinitude is that they suggest the higher orders, and offer real examples of 'conceivable' infinity. The very concept of 'finite' demands a counter-polar 'infinite' to even make sense of itself.

Dan Rowden: If mathematicians and geometrists etc want to use the term "infinite" with respect to things that have no linear beginning or ending, that's fair enough. However, what I want to impress upon Witt is that we're not doing math here, we're addressing these matters philosophically and a new and different coinage is necessary. The case is similar with respect to the term "cause". One may (and I would say must) employ that term differently in philosophy than how it is employed in science.

So, if I define "cause" as: that which is necessary for something to exist - I'm using it in a way that would not be altogether useful for scientific purposes, but means a great deal philosophically.

Infinite means "unbounded". No particular thing can be said to be infinite. The infinite is not a "thing". It is not the set of all sets, because, as you suggest, any set requires something it is not to demarcate it. Nor can the infinite be said to "exist" because existence is a condition of conditional things.

Non Sum: I can agree with this, but provided the "thing" to which you refer is a "finite" object. But, then your statement would amount to: 'No particular 'finite' thing can be said to be infinite', losing some of its punch in becoming a truism.

I am forced to agree, especially since you are restricting the word "exist" to cases of 'conditional, finite, existence'. A sort of stacking the deck. Of course, 'existence' could also be used, and is, in cases that address 'Being'. Do you wish to say that 'infinity has no being whatsoever'?

Would you permit me to suggest an example of the infinite within your personal experience, for your testing? The word is "Here." I am at a loss in discovering any 'bounds' to this infinite 'Here'. Perhaps, you, Witt, et al (whoever Al is?) can? I'll stay Here and see what you think.

Dan Rowden: You're right, I am restricting the use of the term "exist" to the finite, the conditional. The reason for that is if one doesn't, one is left employing two very different senses of the one term. I guess that's ok, but only where one understands that difference fully.

In the end, however, the terms we use are less important than the meaning behind them. If a person wants to use "exist" with respect to the conditional, and, also with respect to the unconditional, then that's their prerogative. I happen to find it confusing and I also find that most people who do so are actually never at any stage referencing the unconditional because they haven't really come to understand what that is.

As to your example of "Here" - well, if by that you intend to convey the infinitude of reality, that's ok by me. Of course, someone may be tempted to ask whether "somewhere else" is part of this "here"? ;)

Non Sum: I'm saying that we actually experience a sense of 'being here' all of our lives, and that this 'here' impression is a perception of 'infinity' itself. You may be 'here' in Paris with me [;)], or move on to be 'here' in Cincinnati. Both cities are finitely bound by geographic location, but not the 'here'. You can think 'there', but can never actually Be 'there'. Even if 'there' is no more than an inch away from where you now stand. 'Paris', your body, they can be 'here', but are nothing more than temporarily basking in the sun of 'Here'.

You, as a Self and not an object (body-mind-actions), are what is infinite, and so can never enter the finite, though your presence (called, Here) can coincide by temporary superimposition with the finite (e.g. Paris). 'Here' is not 'place', they are not synonyms. Please, examine and compare them for their differences, and see where they meet what is considered 'infinite', or not. I'd be interested in your slant on this 'my' infinite.

Dan Rowden: I believe I know what you're saying. This "here" you're talking about is equivalent to "now". It's a place in which we can never not be. I would regard it as a "glimpse" into the infinitude of reality rather than reality itself. But it's an important insight.

To put it in a someone facetious vein, one is really neither here nor there. Distance and separation are illusions - arbitrary constructs of mind. Such perceptions have practical uses in various contexts but they don't represent any "objective" state of reality.

I agree with what I think is your implication that the appearance we call the "self" cannot be located anywhere other than "here", which, really, is everywhere and nowhere. That is, our subjective experience of the "world" is known to us yet cannot be located anywhere within that world.

WolfsonJakk: How is the idea of "being here" not a delusional function of the ego? When an individual declares "I am here", are they not declaring the existance of their ego first and foremeost? How is any concept based in ego capable of approaching the infinite?

Dan Rowden: The declaration needn't be egotistically based. It is only so where that sense of self refers too an inherently or independently existent "I". "I" as an empty appearance is as valid as any other designation of something existing. "I" just refers to a particular appearance within mind; one having the same lack of inherency as everything else.

WolfsonJakk: I can say "I have consciousness" to myself, but can I be sure?

Dan Rowden: Yes. This is something that is certain. Brute experience - i.e. something is happening, or perception is happening, without the inference or projection of any secondary qualities like "real" or "illusory" and so forth, is something that cannot be questioned or doubted. It is actually meaningless, and therefore foolish, to question or doubt it, in much the same way as it is meaningless and therefore foolish to question A=A. The doubt and/or questioning is based upon the thing being doubted and questioned. To doubt the brute fact of consciousness is an entirely fruitless task. It's a bit like questioning the idea that I have the capacity to question.

WolfsonJakk: Perhaps my physical body is in a sleep state and this consciousness is merely a dream (a la the movie Matrix).

Dan Rowden: So what? We could be just a hologram is some alien's living room. That doesn't change the certainty of our appreciation of our consciousness or of something like A=A. Dream state; waking state, weird as hell altered state - it's all the same, fundamentally. If in any of these states we have the thought: "Something is happening", we can be utterly certain of it because there's no possibility to refute or even doubt it.

WolfsonJakk: There is no absolute proof, neither objective nor subjective, that I exist and am aware of my existence without delusion. Rather, I assume I exist.

Dan Rowden: But that doesn't mean anything. The assumption is still part of "experience is happening". There doesn't have to be an inherently, objectively existent "you" for this to remain necessarily true. In essence, the thought "something is happening" is the "appearance" we label "me". But it's just another appearance whipped up by causality (Nature).

WolfsonJakk: With that said, it would seem the "mathematical" assumptions would be inherently closer to objective and thus more philosophically relevant. My friend and I take out an extra long tape measure to determine the distance from Paris to the coastal town of Le Havre. It reads 400km. I show the tape measure to my friend and he also sees the 400km.

There is a chance that my friend is an illusion, as well as the tape measure, as well as both cities. But "I" continue to get impressions from these "illusions". With no absolute proof that any of it is real, neither objective nor subjective, I am left with circumstantial evidence.

Dan Rowden: One can pose the question of whether experiences are "subjective" or "objective" (although ultimately I find those questions to be without actual foundation), but one cannot question the brute fact of experience.

Things are really neither objective or subjective - these are just categories we employ for practical purposes. Things are just "there". They are just facts of experience. We carve up this world of experience into categories, based on similarities of how we experience them; thus we come up with an "empirical" realm and a "subjective, or logical or abstract" realm. But do any of these categories really represent reality as it actually is? No, not really; they're just creations of our consciousness, finite models of reality built from the particular form our consciousness takes. The only things that are consistently and necessarily true across all such models and creations are facts such as A=A, all things are caused/relative (co-dependent origination) etc.

WolfsonJakk: There must be some cause to these sensory impressions I believe I am experiencing.

Dan Rowden: You mean, that you are experiencing - belief isn't necessary there. Sure, there has to be a cause, but the true cause can never be known because causes are infinite. We create causal models (i.e. we do science) and these may have practical application (i.e. work), but it is just modelling and does not represent any inherent state of affairs.

WolfsonJakk: With doubt all around and throughout, would it be wrong to assume the sensory impressions are real and come from real causes (i.e. physical objects such as cities, people, sounds, tape measures)?

Dan Rowden: Yes, it would be wrong, but it is also wrong to think of such things as illusory. Things, in truth, are neither real nor illusory. Things are just "empty" appearances that we carve up into categories of experience and with respect to which we build causal models which either work or don't work, but which, in deference to Hume, we cannot deem to be an actual reflection of any objective state of affairs. For practical purposes, we assume those things we link together in causal relation are objectively linked, but no matter how many times this appearance might present itself to us we can never be certain that the link absolutely exists. Models of causation can work without necessarily being true.

However, to look at this issue another way: since all things are causally intertwined, some form of causal relation exists between all things. Some relationship models work well within the parameters of our consciousness so they tend to appear more "objectively" or inherently real to us. But you'll find that Reality actually lends itself to an infinitely complex array of causal modelling. Just because a particular model doesn't work for us, that doesn't mean it doesn't work for somebody or something else. Because our consciousness tends to produce a certain form of causal relation modelling, we will naturally tend to view anything outside these parameters as not being a causal model at all. These models are just our way of carving up and manipulating the infinitely carvable state we call "Reality".

WolfsonJakk: If the objective world is "real", there is no reason not to believe the subjective world is also real. If the objective world turns out to actually be real, then ideas such as "there is only the here and now" are a subjective, ego-based point-of-view.

Dan Rowden: To "prove" the truth of a so-called "objective world" one would have to show that it existed independent of our consciousness, would one not? How do you think anyone could sensibly expect to achieve that? The only way it could be done would be to demonstrate its logical necessity, and, well, isn't it the case that in our modern world of philosophical genius we know that you can't prove the existence of things with logic alone?

WolfsonJakk: If the term "real" were collectively defined here with all in agreement (highly improbable), the next logical step would then be application of Truth. Even with agreement, how can we be sure we are not collectively deluded? We can't.

Dan Rowden: I don't really know why that's an issue for you. We don't need to "collectively" agree on anything. The issue is whether or not you are deluded and whether you can satisfactorily determine what, if anything, you can be certain about. You may be the only person in existence who isn't in a deluded state. Since there is no way to determine, with certainty, whether other people are really deluded or not, they become a relative non-issue in the process of deciding what is real and what is not, what is certain and what is not. The idea of building a method of "confirmation" of facts of existence around consensus thinking is an inherently flawed idea. It quite simply isn't possible.

WolfsonJakk: All of this circumstantial evidence points to a relative existence.

Dan Rowden: What, relative because we may not agree on what is real and not real? No, it very definitely doesn't work that way. The essential truths of existence that I have uncovered are absolutely and necessarily applicable to everybody. If they weren't, they would not, of course, be essential truths of existence. That others are not aware of them or may never come to comprehend them doesn't mean anything.


An excerpt from:

Compiled and Continued by Kevin Solway


Abstainer: a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.

Alliance: in international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pocket that they cannot separately plunder a third.

Alone: in bad company.

Apology: (1) to repeat an insult with variations. (2) the foundation for a future offense.

Applause: the echo of a platitude.

Bait: a preparation that renders the hook more palatable. The best kind is beauty.

Boredom: (1) the desire for desires. (2) what happens when we lose contact with the Universe.

Businessman: (1) one who has all the air, the distraction and restlessness and hurry of . . . a criminal. (2) one who is too lazy to do anything noble.

Child: (1) love's by-product. (2) one who stands halfway between an adult and a t.v set.

Chivalry: (1) the deportment of a man toward any woman not his wife. (2) a man's inclination to defend a woman against every man but himself.

Comfort: a state of mind produced by contemplation of a neighbour's uneasiness.

Commuter: one who spends his life in riding to and from his wife.

Conscience: (1) an inner voice that warns us somebody is looking. (2) the voice of men in man. (3) cowardice.

Conservative: (1) a statesman who is enamoured of existing evils, as distinguished from the liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. (2) one who is in office. (3) one who can't see the difference between radicalism and an idea. (4) one who is too cowardly to fight and too fat to run. (5) men who have learned to like the new order forced upon them by radicals.

Courage: (1) doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're afraid. (2) the art of being the only one who knows you're scared to death. (3) a quality no one admits he lacks totally. (4) salvation. (5) the only virtue. /

Dawn: the time when men of reason go to bed.

Defenceless: unable to attack.

Eccentricity: (1) originality without sense. (2) a method of distinction so cheap that fools employ it to accentuate their incapacity.

Enemy: those who have more accurate insights about you than you do yourself.

Equality: (1) a proposition to which, at ordinary times, no sane person has ever given his assent. (2) the offspring of envy and covetousness. (3) womens' right to do absolutely whatever they want to do.

Experience: (1) the teacher of fools. (2) the wisdom that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again. (3) what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.

Famous: conspicuously miserable.

Friend: (1) the name for a more constant acquaintance. (2) one who has no comprehension of the harm you are doing him.

Future: that period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.

Gentleman: one who does not tell the naked truth in the presence of ladies.

Habit: the shackle of the free.

Harassment: whatever a man did before he stepped over an imaginary line a woman drew after he stepped over it.

Harsh: truthful

Honesty: honesty is the best poverty.

Idleness: the ultimate purpose of the busy.

Jury: a group of twelve people of average ignorance chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.

Kindness: (1) loving people more than they deserve. (2) a brief preface to ten volumes of exaction.

Labour: one of the processes by which A acquires the property of B.

Lie: (1) a fault in a boy, an art in a lover, an accomplishment in a bachelor, and second nature in a married woman. (2) a very poor substitute for the truth, but the only one discovered to date.

Longevity: uncommon extension of the fear of death.

Madman: a man who has lost everything except his reason.

Male: a member of the unconsidered, or negligible sex. The male of the human race is commonly known (to the female) as Mere Man. The genus has two varieties: good providers and bad providers.

Miracle: an event described by those to whom it was told by men who did not see it.

Misfortune: that which makes one man superior to another.

Money: (1) a kind of disease which those who have it don't like to spread. (2) the measure of our distrust.

Motherhood: women's mafia.

Mouth: in man, the gateway to the soul; in woman, the outlet of the heart.

Natural: a very difficult pose to maintain.

Nonsense: the objections that are urged against this excellent dictionary.

Novel: a short story padded.

Pacifist: a deceased pacifist.

Paedophilia: attraction to women.

Parents: what children never think of when falling in love.

Patience: a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.

Peace: (1) a period of cheating between two periods of fighting. (2) a short pause between wars for enemy identification.

Poem: what happens when an anxiety meets a technique.

Poet: someone who is astonished by everything.

Politeness: the most acceptable hypocrisy.

Presentable: hideously appareled after the manner of the time and place.

Radical: one who wants to tackle evil at the root.

Realism: the art of depicting nature as it is seen by toads.

River: an aspect of Nature which lies behind the cottages and billboards.

Road: a strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go.

Robber: a candid man of affairs.

Sanity: a cozy lie.

Sex: the castration of man.

Shyness: egotism out of its depth.

Sincerity: what a woman likes in a man, as opposed to honesty.

Sorrow: the future tense of love.

Suburbia: (1) the projection of dormitory life into adulthood. (2) where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.

Thinking: often only a flash between two long nights, but this flash is everything.

Time: (1) the press-agent of genius. (2) the most valuable thing a person can spend.

Truth: (1) the object of philosophy, but not of philosophers. (2) stranger than fiction but not as popular. (3) what keeps honest men poor.

University: a place where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed.

Wise: a reputation that is built by agreeing with everybody.

Women: the maintenance class.

Yawn: a pertinent remark.

Yesterday: the tomorrow that got away.




By David Quinn

A wit once remarked that religious faith is "belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without possibility". It has also been said that a theologian is "like a blind person in a dark room searching for black cat which isn't there - and finding it".

I would rather state the case more openly. Religion is a popular refuge for all those who hate reality. It offers a wholesale package of beliefs, scriptures, authority figures, rules, rituals, attitudes, and community support for those who wish to shelter from the responsibility and pressure involved in thinking for themselves. It is no surprise, then, that religion invariably attracts the lowest type of human being.

Is there anyone more repulsive than a religious person? With his vacuous mind, scripted responses and idiot's grin, the religious person is an embarrassment to the human race. Although he invokes the name of God, he destroys everything that I consider to be good and noble in life.

The true spiritual path consists of intellectually working out what is ultimately real and then doing everything possible to live in conformity with it. It is the process of giving up all false thoughts, concepts, beliefs and attachments. The spiritual teacher encourages people to reason earnestly in order that they may understand the Ultimate Truth for themselves. He is like a Jesus, someone who shakes people out of their complacency and puts the fear of God into them.

But the religious person is so far away from this ideal, it's a joke. Everything he does is the precise opposite. He piles up obstacle after obstacle in front of those who wish to understand God. He spares no effort in his desire to cripple people intellectually and force them into becoming attached to useless dogma, empty rituals, complex scriptures, the emotions - in short, to everything that is base in humanity. The religious person speaks purely to the animal within. He is the holy guardian of mindlessness.

The purpose of religion is to create a watertight dreamworld in which everyone inside can completely avoid thought. By having priests or gurus on the one hand, and followers on the other, this is easily achieved. Each component of the dichotomy fortifies the other. The followers get the benefit of a "holy man" who will bless and sanctify their selfish, emotional fantasies and their evil-ridden lives, while the "holy man" gets the benefit of a comfortable material existence, paid for by his followers, and the pleasurable boost to his ego that comes with being continually praised and worshipped. Each can turn to the other for the purpose of blocking out Reality. It is a rock-solid system that has obviously worked well for thousands of years.

It is a crime to suggest that Christianity has anything to do with God or the spiritual path. Christians are totally uninterested in knowing God. This may seem a strange statement to make, considering that Christians are known to talk about God quite a lot. But it is all just empty talk. To them, God is a vague and nebulous entity, a misty abstraction which they keep at the outer reaches of their minds. They don't really know anything about Him at all.

The idea that one can come to know God so intimately so as to understand His nature fully is completely alien to the Christian mind. They regard such a thing as blasphemy of the worst kind. To actually want to be like Jesus and become a Son of God, sharing in all of God's secrets, becoming perfect and immortal, is a thought which so horrifies a Christian that he does all he can to shield his eyes from it. And yet he claims to be a follower of Jesus!

Talk to a priest about the importance of fully understanding God and he will only stare at you blankly. Christianity is merely popular entertainment for the masses; nothing more, nothing less. As such, the role of the priest is to make everything as bland and superficial as possible. People don't look to him as an example of how to live. If he is foolish enough to berate people for their evil ways, he is immediately condemned. They really don't want him to give them guidance - unless that guidance happens to be trivial and harmless.

Glance at a man wearing a dog-collar and you know he is completely useless. He is an empty vessel, a mouthpiece for someone else's thoughts. Because no-one in Christianity believes that anything can be known, no-one in Christianity takes responsibility for anything they say or do. They are adept at passing the buck, just like politicians.

Priests necessarily come to regard their job as being precisely that - a job. A young man may have initially entered the priesthood for the best of reasons, to become perfectly wise, but he soon realises, subconsciously at least, that this is a totally unrealistic goal for a priest to have. He sees that everyone around him, fellow clergy and the common people alike, are not the slightest bit interested in Truth. In fact, what people want from him is not wisdom but a skillful stroking of their egos. He becomes a kind of councillor, a career-bound animal as materialistic and dull-witted as any in the world. When asked as to why he is a priest, or even a Christian, he cannot give an account of himself. He no longer knows what the question means, let alone the answer.

Modern-day Christians have the benefit of a two thousand year old tradition steeped in the noble art of avoiding reality. Generation upon generation of theologians have poured their energy into perfecting all the tricks necessary to undo the reasoning process. Hence, the priest of today is completely impervious to reason. He has become a pathetic creature locked away in a sterile dreamworld, like a stuffed specimen in a museum. Nothing is allowed to pass through the barrier between the priest and the world, either in or out. There he sits, frozen minded, smiling like a woman, and about as useful as a corpse.


Postmodernism and New Age Unreason

by George Englebretsen

(Department of Philosophy, Bishop's University, Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada)


In Book Gamma of Metaphysics, Aristotle considers the possibility that one might deny the universal logical constraints on rational discourse. In particular, he is concerned with those who might deny the law of noncontradiction ("A statement and its negation cannot both be true at the same time"). His conclusion is that such a speaker could not be counted on to say what he or she means (or mean what is said). And his advice to us is not to attempt conversation with such people.

Postmodern thinkers claim to have broken the fetters of logic (inter alia) that have characterized the modern notion of rational discourse. The result, it is claimed, is a new freedom of communication. Rationally, in the sense of allegiance to universal logical constraints, is no longer the only, or even major, "communicative virtue." Social, psychological, political, historical considerations must all take precedence over logic. Judging the rational success of a piece of discourse (or "text") is now a matter to be dealt with by social scientists and literary critics rather than by logicians (the ones in whom moderns and premoderns had invested the task of defining rationality). Freed from the confines of logic, discourse can now become open, honest, sincere, politically sensitive, historically conditioned. Premoderns and moderns based their willingness to accept or reject a speaker's claim on their judgment of how well it seemed to fit the facts of the case and to what extent it was logically consistent with the speaker's other claims or assumptions. By contrast, postmoderns "play the believing game," accepting the speaker's claim according to the degree of sincerity the speaker exhibits. Truth and coherence are no longer allowed to bully us in our communicative efforts. Expertise and authority are no longer the possession of only an elite few. We all share expertise and authority equally. Communication, finally, is democratic. The premodern and modern informed and rational despots have been overthrown. We are all informed; we are all rational.

As a consequence of this newfound communicative democracy, none of us is in a privileged position relative to another when it comes to imparting knowledge and understanding. Anyone can teach anything to anyone else. Thus, no sin is greater in these postmodern times than the sin of "sub-dialogic discourse," i.e., monologue (lecturing, instructing, etc.) or null discourse (silence, closing conversation). As that guru of American postmodernism, Richard Rorty, has said, our only task is to "keep the conversation going." Aristotle's refusal even to converse with those who would reject the constraints of logic might well be considered now as Adam's Fall with respect to the "ethics of conversation."

So there is no truth. Or, to be fair, there is no Truth.

There are lots of little truths, all of which are relative to the social, psychological, historical, political, etc., contexts of their utterances. Consequently, there can be no disagreement. A says "X" while B says "Not X." But by postmodern lights they do not contradict one another. (Indeed, today Whitman could not even contradict himself!) A says what she says as a woman, or as an oriental, or as an unemployed person, or as a mother, and so on and so on. B says what he says as a male, or as an Hispanic, or as an artist, and so on and so on. One man's (or woman's) "X" is another's "Not X," depending on who ( = where, when, what gender, race, age, etc.) they are.

A new age of communicative democracy has now dawned, so the cant goes. And this new age has helped foster the New Age. Now there is a strong temptation to simply ignore nonsense, unreason, irrationality. The rationalist often, and understandably, wants to say that those who live in ignorance deserve the consequences. But the simple fact is that all of us suffer the consequences of willful stupidity. When reason is under attack, as it certainly is today, there are many victims. In particular, science and education are compromised, contorted, denigrated, denied. And when the war against reason is backed by a large cadre of articulate sophists (e.g., the postmodern philosophers and literary critics) the results are even more insidious. Postmoderns conjure a vision of science, viewed as "no more than the handmaiden of technology," according to Rorty, which is virtually evil itself. Science, from this point of view, is to blame for most of today's economic, environmental, and medical ills. Antiscience, pseudoscience, and literature constitute a new trivium. The latter is the "presiding discipline" of postmodern culture. Education, at all levels, is seen as contributing to the advance of this evil science. Moreover, the whole idea of education as it has been practiced since the Enlightenment is rejected on moral grounds. There can be no separation of teacher (master) and student (slave) when there are no universal standards of truth.

Postmoderns are fond of their universal tolerance of all ideas. After all, by postmodern lights all ideas are equal (ie, equally true). My idea that the reason Clinton is having political troubles is because he committed a series of hurtful acts during one of his previous lives and your idea that his troubles are due to a complex array of personal and political factors are on a par with each other. Each deserves the same consideration. Each is to be tolerated. The irony here is that this universal tolerance for ideas (reasonable and unreasonable alike) is coupled with a disturbing intolerance for people. The philosophy that sees only "local" truths rather than universal truths not only repudiates science (the attempt to know the truth), but divides people according to their locality, according to who, where, when, what color, gender, etc., they are. The natural result of such division is an intolerance that, in the long run at least, tends to manifest itself in racism, nationalism, sexism, and the like. When my truth and your truth are different depending on the differences between us, then the differences between us cannot be ignored - they matter too much.

If a new Dark Age is about to descend upon us, as many believe, it will be the result of a variety of factors (just as with the last Dark Age). But surely one important factor will be the kind of thinking advocated by postmoderns and New Agers, the kind of thinking that scorns and abjures reason. If we are to keep away the darkness of ignorance and intolerance, philosophers, scientists, and educators who honor the universal benefits of modern science, liberal education, and rational discourse must cast light on today's advocates of nonsense wherever they are found. For, as Goethe said, humans fear reason, but they ought to fear stupidity - for reason can be hard, but stupidity can be fatal.

A generally sad state of affairs:


Too much too soon

The Sunday Mail

May 26, 2002

CHILDREN'S fashion stores in Britian and the United States are under fire for selling sexually motivated clothing, including G-strings, to pre-teen girls. US retail chain Abercrombe & Fitch has been accused of "peddling child pornography" by targetting 7 to 14 year-old girls with advertising phrases such as "eye candy" and "wink wink".

In Britian, angry parents forced the Next clothing chain to withdraw a T-shirt aimed at girls under six which bore the provocative slogan: "So many boys, so little time." Hundreds complained that the tops encouraged yongsters to be seen as sexual objects. "It is disgusting," a spokesman for Britian's children's charity Kidscape said. "It is encouraging girls to look at themselves as sex objects. This is not only harmful to their development, it is putting their safety at risk by sending signals saying, "I'm fair game, talk to me if you like."

Child-welfare campaigners warned that the clothes were a symptom of the increasing pressure on girls to grow up more quickly as they try to emulate pop starlets such as Britney Spears. Outraged US consumer advocacy groups have called for a boycott of A&F stores. The chain's kiddie G-strings, which include pictures of cherries and hearts, are on sale at more than 150 A&F stores across the US.

It's not the first time A&F has angered consumers. The Ohio-based company enraged parents last year with a summer catalogue of teenage-looking models groping each other and in the nude. The company defended the publication, calling it, "a celebration of a youthful and spirited yet responsible lifestyle."

Julie McNamara, a 40-year-old mother from Whitefish Bay, Milwaukee said A&F staff had told her there had been many complaints. But a company spokeswoman defended the rearless undies: "The underwear for young girls was created with the intention to be light-hearted and cute," Hampton Carney said. "Any misinterpretation of that is purely in the eye of the beholder. "It's not appropriate for a seven-year-old, but it is appropriate for a 10-year-old. Once you get to about 10, you start to care about your underwear and your clothes. It's cute and fun and sweet."

Ms Carney said the retailer had already sold out most of the G-strings, so it would not withdraw them from the shelves.

Comment: Things certainly are in a sorry state. What has a century of feminism really achieved for females? Apparently, the right and will to be obsessed about one's body and appearance at the ripe old age of 7. That is, the right to be as frivolous as women have ever been. It's not even the sexual dimension of this story that is most disconcerting - it's the emphasis placed on "fun' and "cuteness" and "sweetness". That is what is so ghastly. And whilst it's good to see certain social groups being concerned about the sexual element of this kind of commercialism, you can bet if the clothing has no sexual connotations but was just "fun" and "sweet" and "cute' they would have no objection at all. It seems that it is morally repugnant to raise your young daugther as anything remotely resembling a sexual being, but it is perfectly okay to raise them as a frivolous, vacuous, self-obsessed baby bovine. I'm afriad the voice of the consumers lapping-up these absurd products far outweights the voice of those objecting to certain elements of them.

Don't worry, it gets worse....

The NEW Teenager

The Sunday Mail ("Body & Soul" supplement)

May 19 2002

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away called the 1970s teenagers were loud, obnoxious and - as their headmasters called them - rebellious. But then nostalgia isn't what it used to be....

If the evidence we have gathered is to be believed, it's now hip to be polite, understanding and honest in your relationships with the opposite sex - or at least that's what the group of six 17 to 20 years olds with whom we held a forum said. But then they would say that, wouldn't they? Conceivably though, it's true. These are young men who, because of they were brought up by post-feminist mothers and SNAG fathers, don't ave to deal with the gender issues that dogged their parents. So, they seem to have a much easier rapport with women than did previous generations.

To hear them speak, the battle of the sexes is over. There was no winner, just some casualties. Our group ranged widely in background from 19 year-old Sam Lazarou - who works with his father as a contract electrician - to an 18 year-old student who attends one of Sydney's most exclusive private schools and refers to his father as the "ATM". What they all had in common, however, was fatigue of gender politics. Nick Sorensen, 17, is in his last year at a Sydney high school. He believes that even the men of the previous generation - the 25 to 35 age bracket - harbour insecurities about women's empowerment and their position in society compared to men.

"We don't think like that", Nick says. "To us, most things - such as career paths, sex, partying - apply equally to men and women, which makes it a lot easier for us all to get along. What it does do is create a competition between all of us. I'm fully aware that there will be women going for the same job as me. That means we all have respect for each other, and that's what it's all about. If somebody is better at something than I am, it might bother me, but I don't care if it's a man or a woman."

He adds, with a laugh, "I don't know if I could handle a chick beating me in an arm wrestle. It's a drag having to be sensitive all the time. It's even more of a drag constantly having your balls broken. If you have basic respect, it shows - you don't have to be proving it all the time."

With the new breed, even talking about gender differences or differentiating between the sexes is seen to be old-fashioned.

Comment: The only reason young men might see an end having come to the so-called "gender war" is because men have completely capitulated. There have been "casualties", the article says - indeed, and reason has been the most prominent among them. These pathetic young pissants have been so utterly emasculated that they can't even recognise their own duplicity. It's a drag for them to be sensitive all the time, yet, they do so to win personal accreditation within the female ranks. Like men who form male groups against sexual exploitation and violence towards women, their real motivation is to get into the women's pants, emotionally and physically. The desires have not changed, just the methods; and those methods have become disturbingly less direct, honest and masculine. It is just another way for men to express their obsession with "Woman". Note that everything revolves around male respect for women, male behaviour towards women - the reverse never even comes into question. Truly we are entering a dark social age......

But all may not be lost..............


Doormat men told to put foot down

by Darrell Giles (Los Angeles)

The Courier Mail

May 16 2002

No more Mr Nice Guy.

Seattle psychotherapist Robert Glover says it is time that men - who have become doormats and spineless pushovers - rediscover their masculinity. Dr Glover, unofficial leader of the Men's Movement in America, has written a self-help book advising men how to change and put their foot down. Called No More Mr Nice Guy, it suggests men should start by putting themselves first. They should spend more time with male friends and get in touch with their own feelings.

The author said "Nice Guy Syndrome" was on the increase in the US, largely due to the growing feminist movement. He said the "man as doormat" stereotype was reflected in popular culture and especially in Hollywood movies. Dr Glover said contemporary men neglected their own needs to please wives, girlfriends, or mothers. They avoided conflict and didn't say what they wanted and, worst of all, they had stopped going to the game or down the pub.

"A nice guy is a man who has been conditioned by family and society to believe that he has to be good in order to be loved," Dr Glover said. If the problem was not addressed resentment and frustration would build.

His observations for No More Mr Nice Guy came from men's therapy groups he had conducted. "What I found was that a lot of nice guys receive most of their conditioning on how to be male from women, either from dependent mothers or single mums," he said.

Dr Glover, a self-confessed recovering Mr Nice Guy, said a lot of his clients were referred by wives fed up with their "wimpy" men. "What a lot of this is about is standing up and being a man and realising it's okay to be a man," he said.

Comment: Things are indeed in a pretty bad state when one finds oneself offering this drivel as an optimistic note in a social scenario more rightly given over to pessimism. However, I guess, if one ignores not insignificant points like the irony of a book telling you just how to get your screwed-up life together being called a "self-help" book, one may glean some positives from it all. At least someone is responding to the increasingly pussy-whipped nature of modern men, especially modern American men. Then again, when one has to resort to the desperate measure of attending therapy groups to regain a sense of one's masculinity, it is worth asking whether any such masculinity existed in the first place; that is, is there any such masculinity to be regained? Alas, I fear not. The whip has left its scars. They run deep and bear the distinctive shape of labia.


"Who ever said that enlightenment means 'knowing the truth'?"


Editorial note: whilst the following observations are not of an especially profound nature, in and of themselves, they are like fingers pointing to the proverbial moon. If one looks past and beyond them, to where they indicate, one will be bathed in the light of an increased understanding of the feminine aspect of mind, and in some measure, of the nature of society itself.

1. Understand a film plot.

2. Go 24 hours without sending a text message.

3. Fart.

4. Read a map.

5. Rob a bank.

6. Resist Ikea.

7. Sit still.

8. Tell a joke.

9. Pay for dinner.

10. Argue without shouting.

11. Get told off without crying.

12. Walk past a shoe shop.

13. Not comment on a stranger's clothes.

14. Let you sleep off a hangover.

15. Get in a round.

16. Do magic.

17. Like your friends.

18. Enjoy porn.

19. Get to the point.

20. Buy plain envelopes.

21. Take less than 20 minutes in the toilets.

22. Sit in a room for five minutes without saying "I'm cold".

23. Go shopping without telephoning 25 mates.

24. Avoid credit card debt.

25. Not try and change you.

26. Watch a war film.

27. Understand why flirting results in violence.

28. Spend a day by themselves.

29. Go to the toilets by themselves.

30. Buy a purse that fits inside their pockets.

31. Choose a video quickly.

32. Get to the point.

33. Know what the point is.

34. Gracefully accept that there are things they can't do.

35. Show gratitude.

36. Forgive.


Why Cats are Better than Men

1. A cat always comes in sober after being out all night.

2. When a cat goes to the toilet she tries not to leave a trace.

3. You can put a bell around a cat's neck so you know exactly where she is.

4. If you stroke a cat she won't leap on you for sex.

5. You don't mind that much if a cat brings a bird home every night.

6. When a cat comes in at mid-night it doesn't wake you up by smashing into every item of furniture.

7. Cats never pretend they know how to fix the video.

8. Cats don't care what size your boobs are.

9. Cats still love you even when your perm goes wrong.

10. Cats love rubbing up to your legs however much cellulite you have.

11. Cats can be neutered if they stray.

12. If a cat jumps into your lap, a little light petting will satisfy her.

13. It's okay if a cat rubs up against your best friend.

14. If you ask enough times, a cat may actually listen to you.

15. You never have to spend time with your cat's mother.
16. Better chance of training a cat.

17. Cats are cute.

18. A cat is never late for dinner.

19. Cats love to see you come home from shopping with lots of bags!

20. You'll never get a call from you cat's ex-wife.

21. A cat would never leave you for a younger woman.

22. Cats treat your mom with respect.

23. Cats don't worry about hair loss.

24. It feels nice to stroke a cats soft, fluffy fur.

25. A cat's friend is less likely to be annoying.

26. Cats can't show love without meaning it.

27. To buy a fancy dinner for a cat only costs 40p

28. Cats actually think with their heads.

29. Unlike a man, a cat can fend for itself.

30. It is legal in all states to neuter a cat.

31. Cats comfort you when you are sick.

32. When a cat sleeps all day it's natural, not annoying.


Does higher education, even University, inspire and encourage the pursuit of wisdom and intellectual excellence, or are formal educational institutions breeding grounds for herdly mediocrity? In this discussion Matthew Timpanelli mounts a spirited defense of the inspirational qualities of such institutions and of pedagogy in general. Whether he suceeds in his endeavour to any real degree (pun intended) I will leave to the judgment of the individual reader.....

Matthew: You can either close your eyes and ears to the rest of the world and come up with your own conclusions about truth, or you can listen and learn. Learning these studies is a way of understanding how others have understood the world. its important to learn what has been said, so maybe you can build on the ideas you like.

Marsha Faizi: I have not closed my eyes and ears. I listen carefully. I listen now more than I did when I was younger because, as my time grows shorter, I do not want to miss anything of value.

I have not "come up" with my own conclusions about truth. I have had many lessons, some of them difficult and painful; some that caused suffering. These lessons were of my own manufacture and my own desire. I created them out of the force of ego.

Matthew: My point really is, you seem to think that because some don't have a passion for truth, it makes them mediocre.

Marsha Faizi: That is true. I do think that.

Certainly, this does not mean that I go around treating people as inferiors. I don't. Not in the least. I treat people with great consideration and courtesy and without condescension. I treat them with compassion. I do not believe that most people -- especially people after the time of youth -- have much capacity or much care for truth. I don't expect them to have such capacity or care. Beyond writing to this list, I do not have extended time to spend with anyone in order to discern whether there is any spark of substance in him -- anything besides a vacuity. I do not have such interest.

I think earthly mortality is an interesting thing -- the way it occurs to us. Young people have little concept of it just as I no longer have a concept of some of the things that may occupy youth. It just one day occurs to you that your time is truly limited. One may know that intellectually in youth but the reality of it is another thing entirely. I look outside and I can fully imagine the earth without me in it. I know that things will still be here when I leave; that the grass will still grow; the sun will shine.

In a way, it is unfortunate. It seems that, by the time one finally fully adjusts and accepts his environment and the reality of his individuality in it, he is looking at death -- the cessation of being. It is no big deal -- not a cause for grief. It is a sensation of, "Life has been a great big pain in the ass all these years -- because I wanted this and didn't get it and I wanted that and didn't get it and wanted this and that and did not get them either. Now that I don't want anything, I am looking squarely at this stone wall that I am going to run smack-dab into at any time."

Seeing the wall -- not just sensing it or speaking of it metaphorically -- is quite a realization. One imagines how an insect might feel just before he hits a windshield. It is going to be a big whack.

Another way that I perceive it is like this -- I am walking in a garden and I come to a stone wall. I cannot go forward from this wall. To turn around and go back would be redundant and tiresome. The wall is the end of my way; my path -- there was only ever one though there seemed to be many at the start.

Death -- the wall -- is the end of an individual life. Infinity goes on. It is the understanding -- if not a complete understanding -- of that Infinity that I hope to achieve before I hit the wall.

Whether or not you or anyone achieves the same thing (or more) is up to every individual. Ultimately, your outcome and the outcome of others is your problem; others' problem.

Therefore, I am not superior because I value Truth, unless you value truth; unless others value truth.

I am decidedly inferior in math to a mathematics professor. I am markedly inferior in my knowledge of physics to one who majors in physics in college. I have minimal knowledge of art history compared to an art history major. I am inferior in knowledge to a pipefitter in fitting pipes. I cannot compose music on the level of Mozart. I do not have the technical knowledge of portrait painting of Rembrandt, nor the knowledge of light as Manet. I am an exceedingly poor businessman. As a nurse, I will not save the world nor even a little part of it nor even one person. I am not astute in Buddhism as are those who study it are well versed in Buddhism and can recite entire passages from its many practitioners and sages. I cannot, from memory, quote Nietzsche and Kierkegaard and others though I can have appreciation of their work. I cannot express myself cleverly with numbers and equations and fluid formulaic logic

In short, I have nothing but a clear vision and experience of The Wall that I can describe and express quite well.

Matthew: Sometimes there's more important things that knowing truth.

Marsha Faizi: That is wholly untrue. Chances are that you have been fed this lie from birth and have fed it to yourself and are feeding it to yourself. You are like an infant with a pacifier. You are deluded.

Ultimately, I do not believe in the concept of "sometimes." In truth, "sometimes" does not exist. There is nothing more important than knowing truth.

All that we do in life is distraction. All that we achieve is distraction.

Matthew: That's your opinion. If truth is the most important thing to you then so be it. To me it is very important but not the most important.

Dan Rowden: Let's not lose sight of the important point in all of this: that however much one's mind may be stimulated by the ideas of others, one's own mind remains utterly paramount.

What others have thought about anything is potentially useful data and nothing more. When one begins believing in the ideas of others, one is in serious trouble. Or, if you prefer, one is in a serious state of social normality.

Matthew: I agree, but that is when a study becomes a religion. A study is a constant give and take process. Where one builds upon a study by integrating their own ideas. A religion on the other hand is when you accept things because of your faith in a study.
This is why I believe a large part of science to be religion. Because people go to doctors with faith and trust that a doctor can cure them without really studying themselves what may be wrong. Sure if we look at science it all seems logical, but only based on scientific ideas. Its no different than a priest absolving one of ones sins. It only makes sense if you believe in catholicism.

Marsha Faizi: You hold that universities do not teach mediocrity. I think that they do teach mediocrity. You are a mediocre and disinterested student by your own admission and, yet, you are certain of obtaining a degree. You will not be awarded a degree for excellence but will be awarded a degree for muddling through on the grounds of doing the easiest thing and of pleasing your parents.

This seems, to me, to be most mediocre. If one is not at a university for the purpose of achieving excellence in one's field, then, one is only interested in mediocrity. Pleasing one's parents is a completely mediocre purpose.

I am, mostly, self-educated. I know that the universities teach mediocrity because I have known many people with degrees. I think that I have explained that in some detail in an earlier post. I know that I did.

I have spent much time in discussion with people who both have degrees from universities and who do not have such degrees. College degrees make a difference in terms of getting a job. Degrees make no difference in intelligence.

Education can be a good thing. I don't dispute that. But education does not make one intelligent. Education is a skill -- not an inherent trait.

I find it odd that you -- one who has said that he is a mediocre student -- values a degree so much -- to the point that you defend it. Why is it that you defend what you profess to not value? You only attend classes to please your parents, you say; but, obviously, you place high value on the degree that you will obtain.

You profess not to value it but you become defensive when the value of it is questioned or denounced. It is very obvious that you do not value truth, Matt. I wonder what you do value? Anything?

Matthew: So, why do I care about school? Because maybe it doesnt accomplish alot but has the potential to. I enjoy going to interesting classes and learning new things. Usually I spend my time thinking I know it all and then I go to class and learn that I dont. I really know very little, but I'm willing to learn. Some teachers suck, but some are great. Without school we wouldn't even be here talking about Plato or nitzche etc... They were teachers, great ones. Would you reject them? You gotta be willing to listen so that you may open the door for another Plato. What good would Plato's thoughts be if no one heard them? If everyone was like you and just thought everything he said to be teaching mediocrity. Your right to think that degree's arent important but the life lessons from an education are very worth while.

I never said school was fullfilling.

Dan Rowden: But you are claiming that it doesn't necessarily produce or encourage mediocrity. I think it's important to understand that it basically does. To my way of thinking, any life led in anything other than committed pursuit of wisdom is by definition a mediocre life, and it is so because it is necessarily a life led within ignorance. Since school or Uni - or whatever - doesn't really encourage any such pursuit of wisdom, at least not outside of the bounds of academic means (which is to say not at all), it does in fact support and encourage mediocrity. Excellence within a specific academic discipline does not mean that the life being led - in general terms - is not mediocre. It quite simply, is.

Matthew: Of course it encourages persuit of wisdom, just not forced.

Dan Rowden: I'm sorry Matt, but this is just wishful thinking on your part. Institutions of formal education do not encourage any authentic pursuit of wisdom, either explicitly or implicitly; however, they may have this effect accidently, in that an individual might be so disenchanted by the mediocrity of it all that he is pushed in the direction of wisdom. Educational institutions are little more than social production lines. They churn out a workforce. That is essentially their function.

Matthew: Great teachers encourage their student to become great,

Dan Rowden: "Great" in what sense? Do teachers encourage their students towards excellence in the fields they teach? Sure, some, probably even most, do. But what of it? Most fields of academic endeavour have nothing to do with wisdom. And to suggest that academics working in the field of philosophy encourage students toward wisdom is something one would surely like to think is true, but, is it?

The bottom line is this: if these pedagogues were themselves truly interested in the pursuit of wisdom, they would have abandoned their involvement in academia long ago. They would be out there pursuing wisdom for themselves. And modern philosophy basically rejects the idea of wisdom in the classical sense, in case you haven't noticed. My experience of students at Uni or those just out of Uni, who have done a philosophy course is that they hold to the view that philosophy is useless and that wisdom is a myth. That's what exposure to modern academic philosophy does to young minds; it most assuredly does not inspire them to leave behind their petty worldly ideals and desires and strive for perfection. The very idea of that is laughable to me.

Matthew: Sometimes a teacher will effect a student in a way that the student may become more interested in the search for truth, i have had many teachers like that.

Dan Rowden: Anyone you meet outside or inside an educational institution can have that effect on you. The only such effect any teacher I ever had had on me was in a kind of negative way; that is, I found their behaviour so appalling it led me towards asking some serious questions about ethics. However, all sorts of people had that effect on me and not one of them ever did so deliberately.

There is simply no way that any person with a serious interest in wisdom would be working within a formal academic environment, especially in these very conservative times. To encourage a person towards truth is to encourage them to break free of all social conventions of belief and thought - all of them, not just the moderately harmless ones. I seriously doubt that anyone doing that in a formal educational setting could possibly keep their job, at least not beyond whatever tenure they may have secured. I reckon the idealism imparted by even the best teachers doesn't really go beyond: "By all means seek wisdom, but make sure you have financial security first!"

Matthew: I dont even get along with teachers but i can say that they have always encouraged me to learn more and make the best out of my ability.

Dan Rowden: That is irrelevant to wisdom. As I said, excellence in a given field does not indicate the slightest interest in wisdom and does not indicate anything less than a mediocre existence.

As useful as it is to have the rudiments of education, and therefore communication, well in hand, it isn't everything. I did not finish my penultimate year of high school, and I do not believe that I ever had any natural talent for writing; yet, when I put my mind to it, I can write quite well. Occasionally, I can even do grammer and spelling proper.

Matthew: Many student go to school only knowing what they learn from the street or from their neighborhood, but school shows that there is alot more to the world.

Dan Rowden: Primarily, it shows career paths. Yippee. Education, with possible very rare exceptions in certain University environments, is so inextricably tied to the petty and mediocre hope and desires of society that it cannot be seriously regarded as anything more than an arm of that mediocrity and teachers the front line soldiers in the battle to secure it.

Of course, education is a reflection of any given society (and sometimes the other way around to some extent) and if that society is utterly enamoured of itself as western cultures are, then educations will be very ordinary indeed. What society needs for there to be any improvement in education is for it to suffer an overall crisis of confidence in itself, but with women increasingly at the helm of education and societal attitudes generally, that is not about to happen. All we'll ever get is moral fashion masquerading as social insight and conscience.

Formal education is really just a mechanism of the herd. As fine a thing as it may be, in principle, in practice it is usually a tool for mediocrity and nothing more. Rare teachers? Well, they possibly exist, but they are sure to be heavily constrained by the forces of that mediocrity, and because they allow that and continue to function within the bounds of it, they too become mediocre.

Matthew: Everything you said is rubbish. If you truely believe that school is completely useless then you are as ignorant as the bad teacher. since when is school getting you ready for "work". I havent learned one thing in school that had to do with any job field. There are no subjects in school that promote the search for truth? What then is a philosophy course, or a phychology course, anthropology, sociology? These subjects are useless except for the person searching for truth.

I agree that not everyone gains a thirst for knowledge in school, but i am living proof that it is possible. Maybe my thirst was their already, but school really enhanced it. That is something that you cannot deny.

Maybe things are different outside Staten Island, I did have a conversation with my friend once about how most people outside NYC dont think, yet most of my aqaintences are highly intelligent and discuss things about life that others just don't see. I've never experienced the education system outside NY so i cant comment about schools everywhere, but schools here certainly are not mediocre.

Dan Rowden: If formal education, and University in particular, really had the character you wish to give it, there should be hundreds, if not thousands, of people out there utterly committed to the search for wisdom. Where are they? Since they do not, in fact, exist, University must, at the very least, be an abject failure in what you claim to be one of its most significant effects: the inspiring of a will to truth.

And if you're thinking of responding that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people out there living a life of serious pursuit of wisdom, don't bother, because I'll just feel compelled to accuse you of gross romanticism.

Matthew: The search for truth, "the most important thing of course"

Dan Rowden: Of course the search for truth is the most important thing! How can one know what is and is not important with having established the truth concerning life and the world? And I am not saying that school is "useless" in the search for truth. I am disputing your claim that it actively encourages or inspires any such search. I'm beginning to wonder what your idea of searching for the truth is.

The rudiments of education - i.e. literacy and numeracy, can be useful, in that they may enable one to access possibly stimulating ideas, but it isn't by any means necessary. An illiterate Mongolian farmer has as much capacity to engage the essential questions of existence as an academic working in the philosophy department of the local University. To think otherwise is really to be an intellectual snob and to lack an understanding of those issues and of mind itself. Is it, however, more likely that a person exposed to modern education will engage those issues? Yes, I think it is, but only superficially; that is, they will do so only because they have been exposed to them. Educated "moderns" will also more readily engage questions of what is the best TV to watch on a Saturday night. Engagement with certain facets of life due to exposure to them (i.e. circumstance) is not the same as a conscious valuing of those things.

The vast majority of students engage certain issues because they want to get their degree or because it is socially fashionable within their peer group to do so. You spoke to me of New York and its "sophistication" (my word). I must say I get a little weary of hearing about how great New York is. Is it the most cosmopolitan and therefore complex and interesting city in the States? Yes, it probably is, but it has an equivalent in most western countries (Paris, London, Sydney etc). But more importantly, it would be a grave mistake to imagine that the educated - or would-be educated - bohemian cafe set, sipping on their haf-caf, decaf, mocchaccino with lite soy and a lemon twist and discussing the meaning of life actually give a rat's about the issues. How many of these people do you think go home from their social gatherings and break into a sweat at the thought of their ignorance with respect to such matters? I tell you, only those who do just that can be considered people with the slightest interest in wisdom.

How many teachers and lecturers likewise break into a sweat over their ignorance? Barely any. Their motivation for the analysis of issues in their respective fields surrounds either the matter of their tenure or their status amongst academic peers or their own egotistical involvement with the subject. Do these motivations occasionally produce new, innovative and even sometimes interesting ideas? Sure, but what that has to do with being personally motivated to strive for wisdom I have no idea.

You continually want to equate a teacher trying to inspire a student towards excellence within a specific field, which may be rather common, with the search for truth. Where's the correlation? Where's the truth in literature, Matt? Where's the truth is calculus and trigonometry? Where's the truth in structural engineering, in architecture, in medicine, in music? Where?

Matthew: Philosophy class shows views of great philosopher throughout time, their search for truth...teacher makes student write about their views about the philosophers views, this makes you think about what your view on truth is.

Dan Rowden: Only superficially. Most of the time what it is doing is making you think of clever ideas so as to demonstrate that you are understanding what you are being taught and can therefore pass the subject and get your degree (i.e. that you are not stupid). Do you see any evidence that philosophy subjects are overbrimming with takers? They have, in fact, become very fashionable over the last decade or so, but you will also notice that the drop-out rate is extremely high. Hardly anyone is inspired by the academic approach to philosophy to continue past Philosophy 101. Am I to suppose that all these people continue on their own private and dedicated philosophic journey whilst studying business principals or law or suchlike?

Does exposure to philosophy subjects make young people marginally more thoughtful than those who are not? I am more than happy to say "yes" to that question. However, it doesn't raise them beyond the level of philosophic mediocrity. Anything less than an absolute and singular dedication to the pursuit of what is ultimately true is my idea of being trapped within mediocrity.

Matthew: I agree that its [higher education] not a success, i mean for me it was but school can not be responsible for this lack of truth seekers entirely. Nothing is seperate from its environment and our environment is a culture of liars. We lie to ourselves, and to others until who you are and who you really are is a large gray area. Its in our culture to avoid truth, I am amazed that there are as many truth seekers as there are right now. Secondly the path to truth is sometimes not so clear, and even taking the most common road may lead to wisdom. E.g. a doctor may find truth simply by doing his job. Sometime you dont need to be looking for truth to become enlightened.

School can only be assisting in the search for truth or hindering it. I think its clear to see that it is assisting. Why is this? Because if not for school many would go on without knowledge of anything without caring. Once one is open to new ideas the are inspired to create new ideas is a logical and intelligent way.

Search for truth entails any desire to know a cause of an experience. A "serious search for truth", like you say, is a desire to know as much as possible about life and its experiences. Focusing in on one field in particular would be limiting this search for knowledge, So technical schools etc. would be inferior in the search for truth, but still better than not going to school at all. So the more school the better for search for truth. Then when one is knowledgable enough to search on their own the search for truth takes another step in a positive direction.

So school is IMO helpful in the search for truth but not essential. I am under the impression that you believe it hinders it. I don't see how learning anything can hinder the search for truth.

Dan Rowden: Herein lies the crux of our differences on the matter. You are talking about, and have the whole the time been talking about, small, lower-case "t" truths. I am talking about, and have always been talking about upper-case 'T" Truth, which is the only kind of truth which ought be directly related to wisdom. The search for Truth is the search for an understanding of what is ultimately true of existence. Higher education does not inspire or encourage any such search - and by and large, not even academic philosophy. On the contrary, it encases young minds in a complex web of finite concerns to the extent that, as the old saying goes: they cannot see the forest for the trees. I'm reminded of a piece from Kevin Solway's "Poison for the Heart":


The scholastic heart loves categories because they keep things at a safe distance - the distance of the intellect.

Scientists believe that truth can be arrived at by pursuing the scientific method - at least, as close to truth as it is possible to get. Similarly, theologians stubbornly await the newest piece of theological brilliance which finally reveals and proves their God once and for all. Both parties believe they are getting incrementally closer to their goal. Unfortunately, all their efforts only serve to remove them even further from the truth, because they are isolating themselves from the only course of abstract thought that can destroy thought.

Scholars cut things up into smaller and smaller pieces, but are unable to fit them back together again. They are discerning in their dissection, yet blind to the world around them. Their mental dexterity renders them able to see causes and effects, but unable to see the body of cause and effect - Nature. Trapped within a complex of categories, they see little of worth, and go in circles. This led Schopenhauer to say:

"The scientific, literary, and artistic spirit of the age make a declaration of bankruptcy about every thirty years. During such period, the recurring errors have so increased, that they collapse under the weight of their own absurdity. There often follows now an error in the opposite direction."

Yes, I have to laugh when I see the scientists reinventing the wheel a thousand times over. And then, when some bright spark of a scientist happens to discover the unfortunate predicament, he proudly announces the momentous discovery to the world as his own!

For example, after stupendous effort a scientist makes a breakthrough in his understanding and conjures up enough courage to challenge the prevailing paradigm, and says:

"A 'species' is of no significance in itself; it is not adapted specifically for an environment, but is an incidental consequence of the development of sexual reproduction."

He hasn't the courage to say what needs to be said: that the category "species" exists only by definition, and that changing the definition results in completely different species. For not only are species an incidental consequence of sexual reproduction, they are also incidental of our definition of what a species is!

The scientist rightly reminds us that not all the structures and functions of animals are necessarily adaptive, but can be carried along in the gene pool, purely incidental of past genetic history. He makes the point that many have come to think of the "species" as a concrete entity, without any thought as to where it comes from, or what it actually is. Yet he doesn't see the real problem, the problem of categories, the problem of reality.

Categories are an attempt to finitize that which is infinite by nature. If we concentrate on the category, and not on what it applies to, we lose an infinite amount of information - literally. Scientists are either not aware of this predicament, or simply don't care to know.

Scientists are fully occupied creating more and more subtle categories, which, it appears them, describe nature with increasing accuracy. At the same time their thinking is also becoming more abstract, if purely in an attempt to avoid being swallowed up by the complexity of their own categories. Yet no matter how detailed or abstract scientists become, no matter how reductionistic or holistic, they will be infinitely far from reality, and doomed to go in circles, until they learn what categories are.

Children can help us here. Their categories are extremely simple, enabling them to see things that are invisible to adults. This does not mean we should become children! Of course, children do not have the penetrating vision of the abstract adult mind. However, children can help us become aware of what we have lost, and can yet refind.

The true man of spirit has the direct vision of the child in addition to the power of abstraction. He is not ruled by categories; he creates, masters, and uses them, all in the knowledge they are neither real nor illusory. He sees his own categories without categorizing them.

Scientists argue much about the source of our condition. Is it genetic or environmental? Evolution or upbringing? Yet I ask you, what is not "environmental"? Do not underestimate the power of the Earth!

To find Reality you must go to the root. Many flitter around on the branches; some realize that all the branches come from the trunk. But the Truth is deeper still! Even when one gets to the root, what is the root of the root?


Quotes of quality from Genius-L and Genius Forum

The main reasons why the belief there is no truth is wrong are (a) it is asserted as a truth, thereby contradicting itself, and (b) it depends on the truth of A=A, which is the core truth behind all truths.  The moment one tries to reach any conclusion at all, even the conclusion that truth doesn't exist, one is using A=A and therefore tacitly accepting the existence of all truth.   Most people are in denial about this, however. David Quinn

Enlightenment means knowing everything that can ever be known. David Quinn

I do think that is a typically American trait to defend mediocrity -- even when it is obvious that it is, indeed, mediocrity that is being defended; and something that is completely loathed by the one who speaks in a loud voice to defend it. Marsha Faizi

I pattern my idea of an enlightened person after Jesus Christ and Buddha and Nietzsche and Kierkegaard and some few others -- Spinoza, maybe.  I am not a Buddhist and am not very familiar with the teachings of Buddha.  However, I know that it is true that Jesus Christ offended -- made distressed, angry, bitter, defensive, etc. -- thousands of people in his lifetime.  Spinoza was cast out of the Jewish religion because of his offensiveness.  Nietzsche continues to offend from beyond the grave.  Socrates was offensive.  I think that Diogenes must have caused a ripple or two of distress in his day.  I don't think that it is possible to be an enlightened human being without offending people. Marsha Faizi

Why waste any more time than is necessary in the homogenization process which is higher education? Patric

Enlightenment has nothing to do with happiness.  If one wants to be happy, he can be happy at any time.  All that he has to do is to close out reality.  Marsha Faizi

Sometimes a teacher will effect a student in a way that the student may become more interested in the search for truth, i have had many teachers like that. Matthew Timpanelli

It seems to me that it should only take one. It further seems to me that, if one claims that there have been _multiple_ teachers like this -- a veritable procession or marching-band -- that one should consider this a warning from one's error-correction software, rather than a fact about the world based on accurate perceptions. For if it happens again and again, one has to wonder what exactly "it" is, and whether it actually interfaces with reality ("interest in the search for truth"), or whether one simply thinks and claims it does.

Giving ten different examples of instances that set one's idealism in motion makes others seriously wonder whether one's idealism has ever been set in motion, for such a case would preclude a multiplicity of separate instigator events. Right? DS


Women & Men


Shardrol: I don't know whether generalizations about subjects such as gender are ever useful, but to me they are not interesting & I have seen them used with intent to harm. Looking at the structure of society, it does appear that women in general are more oriented toward home, family & relationship while men in general are more oriented toward outside achievement & status, but what does this have to say to any of us as individual human beings? We are not limited by what is average for our gender, age group, nationality, race, etc. And the more un-average we are, the more likely we'll be to know other people who are not average.

David Quinn: This is true. However, I also think that the more un-average a person is, the more easily they will understand the value of generalizations. Average people find it difficult to examine information with detachment, due to the fact that they have already abandoned their minds in order to be average. Such people invariably take generalizations in an emotional and personal way.

When someone says something like, "Men are more aggressive and violent than women", or "Men are stuffing up the planet", or "Men are not in touch with their feelings", and so on, then I, as a man, have two choices over how to deal with these comments. I can either take them personally and complain about how restrictive they are. Or I can examine them with detachment and decide for myself whether or not they are valid. As it happens, I believe these statements to be valid generalizations and can accept them as such, even though I myself am neither violent, nor aggressive, nor out of touch with my feelings.

If nothing else, I think a woman of quality would take my comments on women as a challenge. I know I certainly would if I was in that situation. I mean, if I was genuinely interested in doing a particular thing and if other people kept telling me that I was incapable of doing it, then it would only intensify my resolve to succeed at it. I expect high-quality women to do the same.

Shardrol: I'm a woman & I'm not married, I have no boyfriend or children or even pets, I live alone, & at the moment I don't even have a job so I can devote the better part of every day to what I actually want to do with my life which is practice, study, think about & write about Tibetan Buddhism. My goal is to continue to remove all the illusions, delusions, & other manifestations of ego that obscure my experiencing reality-as-it-is.

David Quinn: A truly excellent goal, Shardrol. I wish you all the best in it.

In light of your goal, the following quote from Schopenhauer may be of some help to you:

"That woman according to her nature is meant to obey, may be recognized from the fact that every woman who is placed in the, to her, unnatural position of complete independence, at once attaches herself to some man, by whom she lets herself be led and ruled, for the obvious reason that she requires a master. If she is young it is a lover, if she is old it is a priest."

Shardrol: This is the kind of thing that makes people wary of sweeping generalizations. These generalizations may be presented as "ideas" but eventually people get around to applying them to individuals & coming up with absurdities such as "You're not a real woman if you don't want a husband" or "Women really want to be subservient so you're deluding yourself if you think you value independence" or "You will never be able to be enlightened as long as you continue to be a woman".

Of what possible use is any of this?

David Quinn: Well, first off, it is not correct to group the last quoted statement with the first two. "You're not a real woman if you don't want a husband", for example, is merely an expression of social myth, whereas "You will never be able to be enlightened as long as you continue to be a woman" is a truth grounded in psychological reality. As it happens, a man will also never attain enlightenment if he insists upon remaining a man. Both sexes have to transcend the masculine and feminine sides of their egos.

However, because masculinity is the active, idealistic and ruthless side of ourselves, we have no choice but to develop it and use it to eliminate the passive, submissive and materialistic side of ourselves (i.e our femininity). Only after that can we then concentrate on eliminating our masculinity. It cannot be done the other way around because femininity lacks the qualities to do any kind of genuine work.

All images in this publication are taken/adapted from "The Devil's Gallery"

Editors: David Quinn and Dan Rowden

Disclaimer: editorial opinions expressed in this publication are those of its authors and do not, necessarily, reflect the views of subscribers to Genius-L or Genius Forum.   Dialogues adapted from Genius-L and Genius Forum have been edited for the purpose of  brevity and clarity.  Certain spelling mistakes and typographical errors have been corrected to preserve meaning.


Back Issues:

Index Issue 1 Issue 2 Issue 3 Issue 4 Sex and the Sage Issue 5 Issue 6 Issue 7 Issue 8 Issue 9 Issue 10 Issue 11

Issue 12 Issue13 Issue 14 Issue 15 Issue 16 Issue 17 Issue 19 Issue 20 Issue 21 Issue 22 Issue 23 Issue 24

Copyright 2000 - 2007 David Quinn & Dan Rowden